Houthi Rebels Claim They Blew Up the Former U.S. Navy Ship ‘Swift’
Video shows missile attack on what could be the vessel in Emirates service
by ROBERT BECKHUSEN
The HSV-2 Swift started out as a sleek catamaran and testbed for two new classes of American naval ships until being transferred to the United Arab Emirates in 2014.
Now the vessel appears to have been heavily damaged — if not destroyed — in a missile strike fired from Yemeni militants. Houthi fighters claimed to have sunk the ship with a “rocket” as she traversed near the Red Sea port city of Mocha near the Bab Al Mandab Strait early Saturday.
“The warship was completely destroyed when it attempted to advance towards Mocha’s coast on the Red Sea,” a statement from the Houthi-aligned Yemen News Agency claimed.
The Houthi T.V. channel Al Masirah released footage apparently showing the attack on the ship, which does resemble the former U.S. Navy HSV-2 Swift, which was sold to the United Arab Emirates in 2015 and operated by the country’s National Marine Dredging Company.
While the attack occurred at night and is hard to make out, the video depicts a terrific explosion and fire which illuminates the vessel’s distinctive curved central section.
The UAE has revealed little, although the Saudi-led military coalition acknowledged it “embarked on a rescue operation on Saturday at dawn of the civilian passengers after Al Houthi militias targeted the civilian vessel ‘Swift,’” according to Gulf News.
The statement added that the ship was carrying medical supplies to Yemen and was transporting injured civilians for treatment. The UAE joined the Saudi intervention in Yemen, contributing soldiers, ships and fighter jets. But in June, the UAE announced it would end its military role in the conflict.
War Is Boring could not independently confirm the video’s authenticity, but if the vessel is Swift, the damage is likely to be devastating. It’s unknown if anyone on board was injured or killed.
Swift was never designed to take a hit. A catamaran with an aluminum hull, vessels like Swift are thinly armored, and if hit with a missile they will burn. However, the aluminum, angular and low-draft hull makes the catamaran fast — up to a brisk 45 knots at sprint speed — and able to operate close to shore.
The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command leased her from Australian shipbuilder Incat between 2003 to 2013. America’s experience with Swift would later influence the boxy Spearhead-class fast transport vessel and the better-armed Littoral Combat Ship.
“I can say from experience that the aluminum hull design is NOT meant for taking damage,” one sailor who claimed to be stationed on Swift wrote in a Reddit post five years ago. “We’ve had a couple of our bigger dudes onboard drop a heavy squat from their shoulders in the gym and put a 2 inch gash in the deck. The aluminum hull is not rated for fire and if there was hot burning fire (say from AVgas) it would literally melt the ship in half.”
“Having said all that though, we are fast as fuck and can maneuver in places that a normal ship would not even dream of going. The superstructure is made to flex and can take a punishment as sea as well.”
Besides serving as a testbed, Swift ferried humanitarian supplies to Indonesia, the Caribbean, Central America and to Louisiana in response to Hurricane Katrina during her time in American service. These were missions which suited the ship’s speed, versatility and non-combat role.
The Navy tested her in 2007 as a commando “seabase,” but it never worked out. A similar prototype catamaran to Swift, the USS Joint Venture, is now the HSC Manannan and serves as a car ferry in the Irish Sea.
Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons and cash, but it’s unknown what precisely struck the ship or where the weapon came from.
“This comes as a serious indicator to confirm the orientation of these militias to carry out terrorist operations targeting international navigation and relief ships in [the] Bab Al Mandab Strait,” the coalition stated.
“Coalition air and naval forces had started chasing and targeting of boats which carried out the attack.”